Fear and Loathing in Pattaya
by: Mark Jones
“Mike, I came down to Tukcom to get an extra SD card for you. A couple of scum bags, on a motorbike, stole my handbag while I was crossing the road” said Nat sounding stressed.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes, just angry that’s all. Those bastards got the keys to my car and my wallet”
“How about the memory card?”
“Don’t worry Mike; I left that in the car” she said sounding almost pissed off with me for asking the question.
“Where are you now?” I said breathing a huge sigh of relief as the major and the colonel looked at me expectantly.
“I parked my car at Friendship Supermarket. I’m at the entrance now with the security guard”
“Okay, bap neung na krap (just a moment please) I’ll tell your uncle”
“What happened?” said the major with a genuine look of concern on his face.
“A couple of guys, on a motorbike, grabbed her handbag. She’s lost the keys to her car and her wallet. She’s down at Friendship Supermarket now with a security guard” I said handing him the phone.
He spent a couple of minutes engaged in earnest conversation with her and then handed the phone back. My Thai is limited but, it was fairly clear, that he was telling her to stay where she was while he drove down there to pick her up.
“It may have been a simple snatch and grab but we can’t discount the idea that someone may have been looking for something” said the colonel.
“How would they know, so quickly, that she knew me?” I said.
“Sergeant Chalermchai, no doubt, has friends around here” said the Major.
Then I remembered the junior officer that had spoken with Chalermchai while he was trying to cut a deal with me earlier in the morning.
“I’m going there now to pick her up. I think you should wait here, khun Mike, until I’m back. We can then have a look at that memory card” said the Major Chaweng as he stood up and readied himself to leave.
“Okay, no problems, I’ll go back to the cell now” I said looking back at him.
“Given the way that things have started to unfold, I’m not particularly happy about locking you back in that cell khun Johnson. However, if we want to continue along with this proposal of yours, I see no alternative for the moment. To have you just sitting around, in the waiting area, would certainly arouse undue suspicion from Chalermchai’s friends” said the Colonel standing up as well.
We filed out of the interview room and parted company; the major departing to pick up his niece as I, accompanied by Colonel Prasert, made my way back to the holding cell. I stood looking out through the barred window as he locked the door. I had that sinking feeling of being caged again but knew that it was something that had to be done to ensure that Ning was arrested for being an accomplice in Chris’s murder. The Colonel looked at me.
“You know, there are not many people that go into a cell willingly. Hopefully it won’t be too long for you. If the memory card shows the evidence that you’ve told us about then you will be free to go.”
“If it’s okay with you Colonel Prasert I’d like to continue with the plan, that we talked about earlier, until you arrest Ning, and her accomplices, for my friends murder” I said even though my instincts were telling me I wanted out of where I was as soon as possible.
The Colonel smiled and shook his head
“There are very few people in this world who would go out of their way to help a friend the way that you are. You have my respect farang, you are an honorable man”
“I believe you are as well Colonel Prasert. If you don’t mind me saying, you look unhappy”
“No, I’m just disappointed, that’s all. I always am when a member of the Royal Thai Police has been found going down the criminal path. It causes embarrassment for the rest of us and shakes the public’s confidence. Unfortunately, Sergeant Chalermchai’s dishonest conduct can no longer be ignored, or tolerated. Arresting one of our own is never an easy thing and, as much as I don’t want to, I’m going to have to find some way of stopping his criminal activities. Perhaps your friend, the Thahan Phran man, may be able to help us after all. We will talk later”
The colonel departed as I sat down on the board hard mattress again and I checked my Casio; it was just after midday and I was starving. I could understand now how being imprisoned was a great weight loss program. I felt, and looked, like crap and, as much as I didn’t want to, I would have to maintain the unkempt look until I’d been face to face with Ning. It was a task, as unpleasant as any I’ve faced, that would, hopefully, give me the great satisfaction of seeing the gold digging bitch get what duly deserved; a long stretch in the monkey house. I reached for the remains of the water bottle, took some more medication for the wound, and then went into meditation mode again to calm the internal chatter and regain some focus. I began to silently repeat the mantra that I’d learnt so long ago – Om Kriyam Namah (my actions are aligned with cosmic law); it is the spiritual law of karma, or cause and effect, and it tells us that we should witness our choices – consider the consequences – and listen to our hearts.
My inner calm was interrupted by the sound of my cell door being unlocked; it was the same junior officer again with some more fried rice and water. I decided to test my suspicion that he was communicating with Sergeant Chalermchai; I pulled a one thousand Baht note out of my travelers pack and approached the door as he swung it open to hand me the lunch offering.
“Please tell Sergeant Chalermchai I’m still trying to contact my friend but, so far, haven’t been able to. Also, I’m still being detained on the suspicion of murder” I said looking him in the eye and offering him the thousand Baht.
He looked back at me, uncertain, then reached out and nodded as he took the money from my grasp. I stepped back into the cell, happy that I was continuing the charade, as the junior officer locked the door again. I looked at my phone again, I needed to call Baey.
“Baey speaking, is that you Mike?”
“How are things going down there?”
“Not too bad. I’ve mentioned that idea about setting up Ning’s boyfriend in a drugs sting and the two officers, whom I’ve been talking with, seem to think it might be worth giving it a go. I just want to see how you feel about going through with it, that’s all. I know there’s a risk in confronting these bad guys so I’ll understand if you say no. If you’re willing to work with the police I’ll make sure you’re well paid for your efforts.” I said half expecting him to decline the offer.
“Mike the money is most appreciated but that’s not what I do this for”
“Why would you do it then, it’s possibly putting yourself at great risk?”
“I’m doing it for the good of my country and Thai people Mike. Drugs, and all the problems that come from the drugs, are very bad for our country and especially for the young people. It wrecks their lives Mike. I’ve seen a lot of bad things, during my time in the army, and I served my country to try and stop those bad things. In some way this will just be like another military operation for me. It’s what I’m trained to do Mike, to take out the bad guys.”
“You’re one of the best people I’ve ever met mate, it’s an honour to have you as a friend. Look, I’ll be talking with the Police again fairly soon so I’ll mention to them that you’re willing to go ahead with this. If they give it the green light, there’s a couple things I’ll need you to do first though.”
“Okay, what are they?”
“You’ll need to call Ning and tell her that you’ve got the memory card. Tell her that you’re angry with me, for not paying you, and that you want to do a deal with her boyfriend for a load of yaba (methamphetamine) in exchange for the memory card. I’ll have SMS you her number later as it’s in one of the phones, in my kit bag, confiscated by the police. If she asks where you got her number, tell her you stole one of my phones”
“Have you still got some spare cash?”
“Get one of those cheap Chinese mobile phones with the TV’s built into it”
“Okay. Any reason why?”
“I’ll explain later. Let’s just call it insurance”
“Insurance against what?”
“Things fucking up for us. Look, I’ll get one of the officers that’s been interviewing me, Colonel Prasert, to give you a call later mate to work things out”
“Okay, I’ll stand by for that. One last question though Mike?”
“Where am I going to make the trade with Chalermchai?
“I was thinking of that viewing platform under the big orange Pattaya sign on the hill”
“Yeah, I know it. Good choice, there’s plenty of jungle to hide in around there”
“Why would you be hiding?”
“A Thahan Phran man never arrives second at a contact point Mike”
“I see what you mean. Anyway, stand by for a phone call from Colonel Prasert. Catch you later”
I hung up and immediately SMSd him a message not to call her until after he’d spoken with the Colonel. I was about to put the phone down when it started buzzing. It was Nat.
“Hi Nat, are you okay?” I said feeling concerned for her
“Yes, my uncle picked me up a few minutes ago. I’m at a hotel on Pattaya Klang now. Do you still want me to come and see you?”
“No, it’s better that you stay away from here Nat. I think someone here is acting as a spy for Sergeant Chalermchai” I said still looking out into the corridor.
“Are you sure?”
“Not one hundred percent but I think I’ll find out soon enough if my suspicions are correct. Has your uncle got the memory card?”
“Yes, he is on his way back to the police station now. He used some local locksmith to open my car to get the SD card. The locksmith is making a key for me now and will let me know when it’s ready. I’ll have to go down Friendship Supermarket later to get my car.”
“Please be careful Nat”
“Why do you say that Mike?”
“Because there’s a strong possibility that it wasn’t just a snatch and grab that happened to you this morning. Someone may have paid those guys to grab your handbag thinking that the memory card was inside”
“Well, it wouldn’t have done them much good even if it was”
“Why?” I said sounding a bit confused about what she was saying
“Because I’ve got a copy with me here on my notebook”
“Does anyone else know about this?”
“No Mike, only you”
“Then perhaps we can keep it that way for the moment Nat. Look, I’m going to SMS you an email address as soon as we finish this call. Please send a copy of the video clip to that address” I said as the door at the end of the corridor opened and my friend, the junior officer, made his way towards the cell.
“Can I ask who it is?”
“I’d prefer not to say at the moment Nat. Let’s just say it’s my insurance in case something goes wrong for me. Promise you’ll do that for me please
“Okay Mike, but it’s going to cost you”
“Cost me what?”
“I’ll tell you later honey” she said seductively.
“Gotta go Nat, I’ll be in touch” I said stepping back from the door and ending the call.
The junior officer looked at me through the barred window.
“Sergeant Chalermchai says hello. He also says hurry up and get that memory card for him or else”
“Or else what?” I said reacting to the perceived threat.
“Mai roo (don’t Know)” he said smiling and shrugging his shoulders.
I smiled back, continuing the little charade, as he unlocked the cell door.
“Colonel Prasert wants to see you again”
I looked down at the plastic container of cold fried rice and shrugged; I was feeling seriously hungry as I filed out of the cell and made my way up the corridor again. The Colonel and Major Chaweng were both waiting for me as I entered the interview room. Colonel Prasert had his laptop open in front of him as I sat down.
“We’ve already had a look at the footage you shot and it leaves no doubt about what occurred. You are cleared off all suspicion khun Johnson. I must say that it’s a rather disturbing piece of footage and, even though the rain was quite heavy, the look on the face of that woman is that of a psychotic person. Do you want to watch the footage yourself?”
“No thanks Colonel Prasert, I felt sick looking at it last time. There’s something you need to know”
“Yes” said the Major.
“I’m fairly sure that the junior officer, who’s been looking after me, is in communication with Sergeant Chalermchai. I’m certain that the attack on Nat, this morning, was for a reason”
“Are you sure?” said Major Chaweng.
“Yes. A couple of hours ago I paid him to pass a message on to Chalermchai for me”
“And?” said Major Chaweng.
“When he came to my cell, a few minutes ago, he passed on a reply from Chalermchai”
“Then we need to talk with him immediately” said the Colonel.
“No. It would be better to use this to our advantage” said the Major.
“How?” said Colonel Prasert.
“By letting him continue to think that khun Johnson here is being detained on suspicion of killing his friend. We need to contact Miss Ning and ask her, and her friends, to come in and make a positive identification, on our suspect, as soon as possible.”
“What about Sergeant Chalermchai?” said the colonel.
“Perhaps khun Johnson could arrange for us to meet with his friend, the ex Thahan Phran man” said Major Chaweng as they both looked at me.
“I can call him but I don’t think it would be a good idea to have him come here. Chalermchai would find out fairly quickly that my friend is trying to fool him”
“Yes, that makes sense. Perhaps you can call him ask if he could meet with us somewhere?”
“I’ll send him an SMS now and tell him that you’re going to call him” I said looking at the colonel.
I kept the phone out of sight of prying eyes, in the waiting area, sent off a quick message to Baey and then read out the number to Colonel Prasert.
“I’ve already spoken with him at length and he’s said he’s willing to go ahead and help you with the sting operation. He said he wants to do something for the good of Thailand and Thai people.” I said looking at both of them.
“Perhaps you are correct about your friend after all khun Johnson” said Major Chaweng
“About him having the right qualities for the Arintharad” he said with a nod of approval.
“Before you call him I’d like to suggest a couple of things” I said.
“More ideas” said the colonel smiling.
“Yes. Is there any possibility that you can contact Ning, and the two accomplices, and arrange for them to be here at five pm to do the positive identification?” I said looking back at Colonel Prasert.
“What’s the other thing?” he said raising an eyebrow to my suggestion
“Tell Baey to make contact with Ning ASAP. I’ve already told him what he needs to do; he should use her to make contact with Chalermchai and organize the sting. Tell him to set it up for six pm on the same day that Ning comes in to do the I.D., on me”
“So we’d better get in touch with Miss Ning first then” said Major Chaweng.
“Do you have her number?” said the colonel looking at me again.
“Yes but it’s in my gear bag. The one the police retrieved from the condo yesterday morning”
“It’s in the evidence storage room. Those bags were thoroughly searched. Your friend had a high powered hand gun in his bag”
“Well, he is an ex hunter soldier. What do you expect” I said smiling.
“We don’t expect people, who are supposed to be civilians, to be carrying around nine millimeter weapons” said Colonel Prasert as a matter of fact.
“I suppose not” I said thinking better of disagreeing with him.
‘Anyway, I’d better take you down to the storage room to get that phone now” he said as we stood up.
A few minutes later I was rummaging through my gear back. It was a mess; it looked as though everything had just been tipped out and then stuffed back in without any care or consideration. Anything that was of value, including my mobile phones, was nowhere to be seen. This just further reinforced the widely held view regarding the honesty, or lack of it, of the local police. I opened my rucksack and looked for my travelers wallet, the one that I used for keeping my passport in; it was nowhere to be seen.
“I don’t suppose you know where my passport is being held do you” I said starting to feel my blood pressure rise a bit.
Colonel Prasert turned and spoke with the officer in charge of the storage area who, in turn, went to a locked steel cabinet and retrieved a large manila envelope which he handed over to the colonel who, after tearing in open and fishing around inside, for a few seconds, pulled out a phone. I had to admit I was quite surprised and felt a bit guilty about my earlier negative thoughts regarding the actions of the boys in brown; it appears that we are too quick to judge the honest majority by the actions of the dishonest minority. The major handed back the envelope and, with phone in hand, led me back to the interview room. We sat down and he slid the phone across the desk to me.
“I could’ve spent time looking for her witness statement, to get the number, but this way is faster and more discreet. The only people who will know that she’s coming in will be us. Can you give me the number please?”
I powered up the phone and scrolled down the names list; I had Ning’s number listed under Chris’s name. After pulling it up I slid the phone back across to the colonel who, without hesitation, punched the number into his own phone and hit the call button. A few seconds later he was engaged in conversation with her. After roughly about five minutes, he put the phone down and looked at me.
“She’s coming here at five pm. I told her I we were holding you here and were in the process of charging you with her boyfriend’s murder. I said we needed her, and the other two witnesses to make a positive identification on you” he said feeling satisfied with the way things had gone.
I looked at my watch and noted that it was one o’clock. I didn’t have long to wait until the showdown.
“Okay, that’s the first part of it. I think it might be a good idea for you to call Baey now and give him the go ahead on the second part of the plan” I said looking back at the colonel.
“I think we should tell him to wait for an hour before calling Ning just in case the nearness of calls arouses suspicion” said Major Chaweng.
Colonel Prasert keyed Baey’s number into his phone as I called it out and, a few seconds later, he was introducing himself to Baey. They continued talking, in Thai, for quite awhile and, after the he’d had given Baey Ning’s number he put the phone down and said nothing for what seemed like an eternity; obviously deep in thought over what they’d been talking about.
“He seems like a complete professional. He was in the Thahan Phran for ten years” said Colonel Prasert nodding thoughtfully.
“Yes, I came that assessment as well within a short period of time of getting to know him” I said in agreement
“He said he also wants his gear bag back with the nine millimeter weapon and a flak jacket. I’ll have to arrange for his stuff to be dropped off at his hotel, the Sabai Lodge?” said the colonel looking at me.
“Yes, that’s it” I said.
“Perhaps I could take it there instead Colonel Prasert. My movements won’t invite suspicion and I could meet with khun Baey as well” said Major Chaweng.
“Okay, that might be a better option. He’s going to give me a call once he’s set up the meeting with Chalermchai. I hope you understand that there’s a possibility that someone could get killed if things go wrong” said the colonel looking at me again.
“That’s why I suggested the one hour difference between Ning coming here and Baey meeting up with Chalermchai. If you are happy with the arrest of Ning and her two collaborators, in the murder of khun Lane, you have the option of cancelling the sting operation” I said looking back at him.
“Possibly, I’ll consider it when the time comes.”
“Oh, I almost forgot”
“What?” said the colonel.
“Have you got a copy of the video clip on your laptop?”
“Well, we’ll need to give the SD card to Baey so that everything looks as realistic as possible. If he shows up at the sting, with no memory card, Chalermchai will get suspicious”
Colonel Prasert took the SD card out of his top pocket and handed it over to Major Chaweng.
“I think we should go and retrieve khun Baey’s equipment now so Major Chaweng can be on his way. If you don’t mind khun Johnson, I’ll need you to go back to the holding cell until the time of the faceoff with Miss Ning” he said as we all stood up.
“No problems” I said thinking of the cold fried rice that was waiting for me.
“One more thing” said the colonel.
“Yes” I said still looking at him.
“To make this positive identification look realistic, I’m going to have put handcuffs on you” he said almost apologetically.
“Understood. If that’s what it takes to have her arrested, and charged, then so be it” I said in acceptance of what he’d just told me
As we moved off towards the door, of the interview room, my phone started to buzz in acknowledgement of receiving an SMS. I glanced at the screen; it was Nat.
The major and the captain both looked at me as I opened the message.
“Just Nat saying hello” I said as I continued to read.
It was a quick note to tell me that she’d emailed the video clip, of Chris’ murder, on to Paul, at the Pattaya News Service, and that she was heading off to Friendship Supermarket to pick up her car. I returned the phone to my travelers pack and followed the colonel back towards the holding cell where he locked me in and, once more, and looked at me through the bars on the door.
“After we’ve arrested this woman, and her accomplices, you’ll be free to go. I’d suggest that it might be better for you if you left town for a while. I’ll see you in about four hours” he said as he nodded and moved off back down the corridor.
I pulled out my phone and scrolled through the call log, until I found Paul’s number, then typed in an SMS telling him to show the clip on six o’clock news this evening. I added extra info about the assailants in the video clip; the woman being the girlfriend, of the deceased, and the two, carrying out the murder, being Bangkok hit men. A couple of minutes later I received a reply telling me it’s as good as done, then I settled down to relax and enjoy my cold fried rice.
As I finished off the final morsels, my phone buzzed with another SMS; it was Baey telling me that he’d got the telephone I’d asked him to find.
I had quite a bit I needed to say to him so I called him back.
“Hi Mike, you got the message?”
“Yeah, good job mate. Set it to the Pattaya News Service and take it with you for your RV with Chalermchai. Also, tell no one you’ve got it”
“Can I ask why?”
“It’s our king hit mate. If the game moves away from us we can use that to end things quickly” I said.
“Hmmm, okay I’ll wait for further instructions then”
“Okay mate, I’ll keep you in the picture. Major Chaweng, Nat’s uncle will be up there shortly with your gear, the flak jacket and the nine mill. Anyway, send me an SMS as soon as you’ve organized the RV with Chalermchai. It’s really important that you set it up for six pm today”
“Because Ning’s going to be here, with those two scum bags you dealt with, at five pm. She thinks she’s doing a positive identification on me because I’m being charged with Chris’ murder”
“She is in for a surprise” said Baey with a chuckle.
“She sure fucking is mate. Anyway, good luck and I’ll catch up with you soon”
“Good luck Mike”
I put the phone down, used the last of my water to take another dose of antibiotics and then lay down to clear my mind and focus on what I had to do. Buzz Buzz, it was the bloody phone again; an SMS. I looked at the Casio and was surprised to see that I’d been out to it for nearly an hour; it seemed like only five minutes. The message was from Baey: RV with Chalermchai confirmed at designated point; have all my gear and SD card; TV phone set to Pattaya News Service; have informed Colonel Prasert and Major Chaweng already regarding RV with Chalermchai; Baey. I keyed in a simple reply wishing him well but also reminding him not to be surprised if the colonel cancelled the operation. I lay down again and went into meditation mode; this was it then, the showdown of the forces of light versus the forces of darkness.
“Khun Johnson, Khun Johnson” said a voice that sounded vaguely familiar.
I opened my eyes to see Colonel Prasert standing in the cell looking down at me. I felt like crap and, no doubt, looked it too.
“It’s time” he said as I slowly sat up and checked the Casio again.
It was fifteen minutes after five pm.
“Your adversary is waiting in the interview room and I must say she’s definitely a bit of a psycho” he said as he held out a pair of handcuffs.
“Yes, I think that’s quite obvious after the first meeting with her” I said holding out my hands.
“I think you should leave that travelers pack here. It will look a bit unrealistic going in to the interview room with that around your waist and handcuffs on”
“Oh, yeah okay. I’ll take it off but I want my phone. I’ll put that in my pocket” I said removing the travelers pack and taking out the phone.
“There’s a slight problem with the plan” said the colonel as I held my hands to be cuffed.
“What” what I said feeling my heart beat pick up a notch.
“Well, the two accomplices haven’t turned up. She claims she couldn’t contact them but she’s lying”
“How do you know that?”
“Standard psychological police profiling” he as he placed the cuffs on my hands.
“When people lie, they use the left side of their brain. They always look up to the left and avert their eyes away from the person they’re lying to” he said as a matter of fact.
“Impressive. I wonder where those two bad ass’ are” I said as I stood up.
“I don’t know but there’s something else that’s worrying as well” he said looking at me as we moved out of the cell and he locked the door.
‘What?” I said.
“Miss Nat’s gone missing. She left the hotel three hours ago and hasn’t been seen since. Her car is still down at the Friendship Supermarket and her phone is turned off”
Oh fuck, oh fuck I thought as my heart started racing. That definitely wasn’t in the plan.